GUEST COLUMN: Is The Patient'S Diagnosis Lymphedema Or Lipedema? - HAROLD MERRIMAN,PT

The importance of the lymphatic system in preserving life and in particular the condition of lymphedema is becoming better known among practicing physiotherapists worldwide.  Lymphedema schools preparing clinicians to treat lymphedema and other related conditions such as lipedema first developed in Europe, and now lymphedema schools and clinics have spread throughout the rest of the world.  For example, in North America there are a number of lymphedema schools that teach certification courses that allow practicing clinicians to become a certified lymphedema therapist (CLT).  In addition, an organization called the Lymphedema Association of North America (LANA) administers a nationally recognized lymphedema certification exam to qualifying physiotherapists.1

Even though the topic of lymphedema and related disorders is gaining attention among physiotherapists, patients with these disorders are often underserved.  Part of the difficulty with these patients is that there can be confusion in distinguishing between lymphedema and lipedema and to recognize that some patients may actually have both conditions.  It is the purpose of this brief article to help the physiotherapist differentially diagnose these two conditions and also to provide basic information that will help the patient better understand the nature, course and treatment options for diseases of the lymphatic system.

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